Much of his childhood was spent at his grandfather's house at Buistrode. He was one of the pages of George III, and was educated at Eton and Christ Church, Oxford; but he left the university early, having been appointed private secretary to Earl Bathurst before he was twenty. The interest of the duke of Portland had secured for him the secretaryship of the island of Jamaica, which was a sinecure office, the duties being performed by a deputy, and the reversion of the clerkship of the council.
Greville entered upon the discharge of the duties of clerk of the council in ordinary in 1821, and continued to perform them for nearly forty years. He therefore served under three successive sovereigns,--George IV, William IV and Victoria,--and although no political or confidential functions are attached to that office, it is one which brings a man into habitual intercourse with the chiefs of all the parties in the state. Well-born, well-bred, handsome and accomplished, Greville led the easy life of a man of fashion, taking an occasional part in the transactions of his day and much consulted in the affairs of private life.
Until 1855 when he sold his stud he was an active member of the turf, and he trained successively with Lord George Bentinck, and with the duke of Portland. But the celebrity which now attaches to his name is entirely due to the posthumous publication of a portion of a Journal or Diary which it was his practice to keep during the greater part of his life. These papers were given by him to his friend Henry Reeve a short time before his death, with an injunction that they should be published, as far as was feasible, at not too remote a period after the writer's death.
The journals of the reigns of George IV and William IV (extending from 1820 to 1837) were accordingly so published in obedience to his directions about ten years after that event. Few publications have been received with greater interest by the public; five large editions were sold in little more than a year, and the demand in America was as great as in England. These journals were regarded as a faithful record of the impressions made on the mind of a competent observer, at the time, by the events he witnessed and the persons with whom he associated. Greville did not stoop to collect or record private scandal. His object appears to have been to leave behind him some of the materials of history, by which the men and actions of his own time would be judged. He records not so much public events as the private causes which led to them; and perhaps no English memoirwriter has left behind him a more valuable cotitribution 1o th history of the 19th century. Greville published anonymously, in 1845, a volume on the Past and Present Policy of England in Ireland, in which he advocated the payment of the Roman Catholic clergy; and he was also the author of several pamphleb on the events of his day.
His brother, Henry Greville (1801-1872), attaché to the British embassy in Paris from 1834 to 1844, also kept a diary of which part was published by Viscountess Enfield, Leaves from The Diary of Henry Greville (London, 1883-1884).
See the preface and notes to the Greville Memoirs by Henry Reeve. The memoirs appeared in three sets--one from 1817 to 1837 (London, 1875, 3 vols.), and two for the period from 1837 to 1860, three volumes in 1885 and two in 1887. When the first series appeared in 1875 some passages caused extreme offence. The copies issued were as far as possible recalled and passages suppressed.
This entry was originally from the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.